Cameroon: Separatists, Nigerian Militants Paralyze Border

Authorities in Cameroon say anglophone separatists have joined forces with Nigerian militants to shut down nearly all trade across the two countries’ border. Cameroon depends on Nigeria for 70% of basic commodities and most of them are transported across the land border. Authorities say about 90% of trade has been halted as militants from both sides attack and abduct merchants.

Njume Peter Ambang is a lawmaker from Cameroon’s restive southwest region on the border with Nigeria. He said fighters within the past two months have taken control of many businesses, including palm oil plantations in Ndian, a division in the Southwest region. 

“Maritime business has collapsed. The oil business has all collapsed. Palm oil fields have been seized by the separatists. They harvest the crops, they mill and sell. These guys are working with area boys (armed groups) in Nigeria,” he said.

Ambang was speaking in the Ndian capital, Mundemba, Sunday during a meeting to plead with local fighters to drop their guns and stop harassing merchants.

Cameroon’s military says several hundred fighters chased from towns and villages during raids by government troops relocated to the border with Nigeria. The military says the fighters have killed at least two dozen merchants and abducted scores of others for ransom since January.

Capo Daniel is deputy defense chief of the Ambazonia Defense Forces, or ADF, one of the largest separatist groups in Cameroon.

He said many fighters have been deployed to the border with Nigeria but denies they fled intensive fighting with Cameroonian government troops.

Daniel said Cameroon’s separatists collaborate with Nigeria’s Eastern Security Network of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, a secessionist group that advocates for the creation of an independent state in eastern Nigeria.

Daniel said the Ambazonia and Biafra groups are collaborating to help each other and undermine government control of the border area.

“We want to put in place our own security network to regulate trade and to control the movement of goods and persons between Biafra and Ambazonia. We will no longer allow Cameroon and Nigeria to enforce their law on the border between Biafra and Ambazonia. We will put an end to the exploitation of the Biafra people as well as the Ambazonia people as we work in alliance with our counterparts across the border in Biafra land,” he said. 

Daniel said the ADF and IPOB have been able to stop both Cameroon and Nigeria from collecting revenue from the sales of basic commodities and cash crops including rice, maize, tubers, plantain and cocoa in border localities.

He also said fighters are punishing merchants who collaborate with the two governments by paying taxes or agreeing to be escorted by government troops.

Nigeria and Cameroon have promised to crush all separatists who do not surrender.

The two countries’ governments announced in February 2021 that they would work together to combat separatists and armed groups.

Cameroon this week said it deployed more troops to the border to protect civilians, merchants and their goods.

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